When going down a countries depth chart at any position you generally expect by the time you get down to the 4th person on the list to be struggling for high talent. It’s even truer for goalies. In the world of women’s hockey how many national teams have a goalie with the potential of being top 5 in the world at 4th in their depth chart? There is one national team that has that depth and it’s Canada.
Canada has an ace in Ann-Renee Desbiens. If you’re only able to pay attention to the women’s pro league and international tournaments then Desbiens isn’t exactly a name you’d be familiar with. She has three international tournaments underneath her belt: a U18 World Championship in 2011, the 2015 4 Nations Cup, and the 2015 World Championship. The most recent was the 2015 World Championship where Desbiens was pulled en route to a 7-5 loss in the Gold Medal Game.
It’s unfair to look at that one performance though and have that as your opinion. Apart from Emerance Maschmeyer, Ann-Renee Desbiens is the most sought after goalie by the NWHL and CWHL. Just like Maschmeyer, Desbiens has the potential to join either the NWHL or CWHL and become the best goalie in that league. For right now though Ann-Renee Desbiens is ripping the NCAA up and University of Wisconsin fans are loving her.
In Desbiens’ rookie season in the NCAA it took her 9 games before she lost her first game. Desbiens’ first game in the NCAA was a shutout. It’s hard to believe those aren’t even the biggest accomplishments of Desbiens’ rookie year. After Alex Rigsby went down with an injury Desbiens came in and went on an 11-1-0 run. This performance earned Desbiens multiple honours such as being named to the All-Rookie Team and being named the Top Goalie of the WCHA.
Desbiens hasn’t stopped growing and is turning into a great goalie. She showed this by following up her rookie season with an impressive season being the full-time starter of the University of Wisconsin. Desbiens 14 shutouts on the season tied a record previously set by Team USA legendary goalie Jessie Vetter. This impressive season earned Desbiens recognition with Hockey Canada and she was given spots on the 4 Nations team along with the World Championship team.
Getting pulled in the Gold Medal game is disappointing. If you aren’t mentally tough then this type of loss can start a downward trend in your career. For Ann-Renee Desbiens it’s been the exact opposite. Going into the2015/16 season Desbiens had one goal, make the biggest impact possible and in nearly every possible way she’s done that.
Everyone has heard of Noora Raty. In the NCAA Raty set a single-season record with 17 shutouts in a season. It only took three seasons for Desbiens to beat that record with 18 shutouts in the2015/16 season. That wasn’t the only record Desbiens beat. Before this season Jessie Vetter held the record for longest shutout streak in the NCAA. Desbiens made sure to break that record too by putting up 543:33 of scoreless hockey. The cherry on top of this monumental season was Desbiens being named WCHA Player of the Year along with being a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
Unlike Alex Rigsby, Ann-Renee Desbiens wasn’t given a second chance at the 2016 World Championships. However this won’t bother Desbiens as she knows her place in the world of hockey and it’s in the category of rising star. Being 22yo Desbiens will be entering her final season in Wisconsin and already has one suitor for her services in the NWHL. If you want to know how highly thought of she is just look at where she was drafted, 4th overall by the Boston Pride who are already set in net so they didn’t need to draft Desbiens so highly but with her talent it’s worth the pick.
Racking up all these accolades, records and awards isn’t easy. Being in the company of Jessie Vetter and Noora Raty is no easy feat even if you are playing for a stacked team. Desbiens backs up her trophy case with her play on-ice. What makes Desbiens dangerous is she’s quick, she’s aggressive and she’s one of the biggest goalies around. Her hockey IQ is subtle but it’s there on the ice to be seen in plain view. Desbiens understands angles and where the puck can go off the players stick.
The closer the puck gets to Desbiens, the wider and lower her stance will get. In terms of her quickness Desbiens is powerful when going into the butterfly and when going side-to-side in her butterfly. It’s Desbiens strong legs that allow her to be aggressive as well. Both Maschmeyer and Desbiens share one other similarity then being Canada’s bright young stars in net and it’s how they attack the puck. It’s a controlled, strong push out to the top of the crease that takes away nearly the whole net. It’s entertaining to watch and obviously very effective as well.
Desbiens is the 2nd youngest goalie in the Top 10. At the young age of 22yo there is still a lot of hockey in front of her. It’s exciting to think that the future of not only Canadian goalie being set but the future goalies of women’s hockey is looking as bright as it’s been since Szabados, Schelling, Raty all broke onto the big stage of women’s hockey.